Why is Colorado’s Fort Collins the safest city for drivers?

Fort Collins, Colo., has more to brag about than historic buildings and scenic mountain views. The city ranked as America’s safest for driving in 2010, according to Allstate Insurance.

How safe? The average Fort Collins driver can expect a collision every 14.5 years. By comparison, the average U.S. driver can expect a collision about every 10 years. Drivers in Washington D.C., which finished last on the list, can expect a collision every five years.

Allstate spokeswoman Kate Hollcraft says the list, based on Allstate claims data, is meant “to facilitate a national discussion on safe driving.”

Mike Roche, senior vice president at Allstate, adds that the biggest cause of car accidents is human error. “It is vital for us to educate drivers across the country on the importance of being tolerant and attentive behind the wheel,” Roche says.

Fort Collins, home to Colorado State University, finished second on the annual list from 2006 to 2009 before taking the top spot this year. The mayor credits the city’s high ranking to good roads and infrastructure, as well as responsible drivers.

But not everything is left to individual responsibility. According to Joel Tower, supervisor of the traffic unit at the Fort Collins Police Department, the city employs the usual enforcement measures to promote safe driving. He also notes the city’s use of mobile radar cameras. If a driver is clocked going a certain amount over the speed limit, a photo is taken and the driver is sent a ticket. Fort Collins also has two red-light cameras at high-accident intersections. “It has reduced accident rates,” Tower says.

So can a move to Fort Collins net you a discount on auto insurance along with a safer commute? Not necessarily. Hollcraft points out that data from the Allstate report is not used to set insurance premiums. While the community where a driver lives is one factor in determining rates, many others are considered, from the driver’s age to the car’s value.

Places like Fort Collins are on the positive side of American auto safety, but the negative side deserves attention as well. Nationwide, about 35,000 people die annually on the roads despite technological advances in auto safety. How do we reduce this number?

Fort Collins has a record of doing well on quality-of-life rankings (placing sixth on Money magazine’s 2010 Best Places to Live), and that may hold a clue. A happier, lower-stress lifestyle may promote attentive, safer driving. We can’t all live in Fort Collins, but we can try to reduce stress in our lives, and that may in turn give us fewer accidents to worry about.

–Paul McDonnold